COVID-19: Mark Richardson urges Kiwis to get vaccinated 'for the good of the country'

The AM Show sportscaster Mark Richardson is imploring Kiwis to play their part in the fight against COVID-19 and get vaccinated, arguing that a "pro-choice" standpoint is not an excuse. 

The former Black Cap gave an impassioned speech during Thursday's episode following an interview with Dr Brian Betty, the medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs, who discussed the nation's current vaccination rates.

"This pro-choice thing - yeah, I accept human beings have a choice, but I look at this two ways. One, 'alright, I'm pro-choice' - well make the right choice then, if you're going to have a choice. The right choice for this country is to get vaccinated. The other thing is, I hope you're not going 'oh, I'm pro-choice' just to grandstand," Richardson said. 

"The other thing is, choice only goes so far - we all have choices - but when your bosses tell you to do something for the good of the company, you do it… it's for the good of the country. So yeah, you might be pro-choice, but make the right one - and just go and do it."

At the time of writing, 84 percent of eligible New Zealanders - those aged 12 and over - are fully vaccinated against the virus, while 91 percent have received their first dose. New Zealand has opted to use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is approximately 95 percent effective at preventing serious illness and further transmission after two doses, according to clinical trials.

New Zealand's vaccination campaign has ramped up over recent months following a sluggish start. Just three months ago, only 23 percent of eligible New Zealanders were fully vaccinated - but the arrival of the highly infectious and deadly Delta variant in August fuelled urgency and uptake, particularly in Auckland - the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak. 

But not everyone is willing to get vaccinated. Mandates issued by the Government have proved to be a particular point of contention, with many arguing they should have the freedom to decide whether or not to get inoculated. Vaccination has already been made mandatory for a number of industries, including Corrections, the education sector, the border workforce and for health and dsiability workers.

Under the Government's upcoming COVID-19 Protection Framework, a three-step 'traffic light system' designed for a highly vaccinated population, the vaccinated are also rewarded with pre-pandemic freedoms. Vaccine certificates, a document certifying its holder is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, will allow the inoculated to go to festivals, events, and dine out with friends. The unvaccinated will not be able to enter a number of venues. 

The tension came to a head last week when anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown and anti-mandate protesters stormed the capital, taking to the streets of Wellington to protest against the Government's response. The demonstrators gathered on the grounds of Parliament, some of whom wielded placards and posters emblazoned with pro-Trump slogans or Nazi imagery, with one speaker comparing Auckland to a "concentration camp".

Addressing the issue again later on in the show, Richardson reiterated that the virus is here and it's spreading - but there is an easy way to be protected.

"It's here, chances are at some point over the next few years, you will actually get [an infection] - and the only way you can protect yourself is to get out there and vaccinate," he said.

"It's here, life must carry on. We have a vaccination - use it."